Clinton v. Sanders: Their Climate Plans in a Nutshell

Sanders wants a carbon tax. No surprise: Clinton is more incremental.

Sanders and Clinton have much richer discussions of issues on their website than their Republican rivals, perhaps reflecting different expectations for candidates in the two parties. Both Sander and Clinton have environmental views that are starkly different from the leading Republican candidates. But their views do differ from each other as well.

Clinton has about an 80% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, but Sanders has a perfect scorecard. Their environmental plans differ correspondingly, with Sanders taking the more purist positions such as eliminating fracking. Sanders does seem to have pulled Clinton a bit toward some of his positions in the course of the campaign, but major differences remain.

Clinton’s website summarizes her plans as follows:

  • Create good-paying jobs by making the United States the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.
  • Set national goals to have 500 million solar panels installed; generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America; cut energy waste in homes, schools, and hospitals by a third; and reduce American oil consumption by a third.
  • Lead the world in the fight against climate change by bringing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below what they were in 2005 within the next decade—and keep going.

Sander’s website also lists three key planks in his plan:

  • Cut U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and by over 80 percent by 2050 by putting a tax on carbon pollution, repealing fossil fuel subsidies and making massive investments in energy efficiency and clean, sustainable energy such as wind and solar power.
  • Create a Clean-Energy Workforce of 10 million good-paying jobs by creating a 100% clean energy system. Transitioning toward a completely nuclear-free clean energy system . . .  is not only possible and affordable it will create millions of good jobs.
  • Return billions of dollars to consumers impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.

Both of their websites include more details about how they plan to implement these ideas. Clinton, for instance, puts lots of emphasis in changes in buildings in order to increase energy efficiency.

As you might expect, Clinton’s plans are less bold than Sanders. From the point of view of most economists, his endorsement of a carbon tax makes a lot of policy sense. The flip side of being bolder, of course, is that Sanders’ plans would be harder to implement and are more dependent on new legislation, which in turn would require a fairly drastic shift in the composition of Congress in order to pass something like a carbon tax. Neither one’s plan will get off the ground, of course, without winning the White House.


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